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Why is so much exposure/contrast increase needed?

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rpenmanparker View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rpenmanparker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Why is so much exposure/contrast increase needed?
    Posted: 01 December 2012 at 14:49
I am shooting an a55 and before that a KM 5D. To simplify the discussion let's just assume I am shooting in PROGRAM mode ith multi-segment exposure measurement. Not always true, of course, but suitable for the purpose of my question. Been shooting JPEG, started shooting RAW about six months ago. Also you should know I am printing on a prosumer photo printer at home.

Essentially all of my shots from either camera, whether natural light or flash, require levelling (setting wider black and white points), brightening, and up-contrasting in post editing. Am I doing something wrong with the camera, or is this normal.

(I know some sample images would help in this discussion,, but I don't post images to any web sharing sites and can't figure out how to post them here from my computer. It always seems a little convoluted to me. In dpReview it is MUCH easier!)

In the old days, when I shot B&W, I processed the film and printed myself. I always developed and printed for higher contrast, developing for extended time and printing on higher contrast paper or on variable contrast paper with higher contrast (level 3 or 3.5) filters. So I suppose I am trained toward the contrastier product. Is it just that nowadays in the digital darkroom I see the process needed to obtain such an image more clearly as I make the individual adjustments by digital selections on every image (even if done batchwise). By the way, if I use a smart adjustment function on my photo editor, it pretty much agrees that more exposure and contrast are required. I don't usually like the automatic result as well as what I do manually, but the trends agree.

How do folks just take a memory card to Wal Mart and get satisfactory, though not perfect, prints? Are the machines there doing the brightening, up-contrasting automatically to satisfy the mass market?

And I have a friend who shoots a Canon Rebel something or the other all over the western part of the US, capturing magnificent landscape and rock formation images, contrasty, bright, saturated, etc. which he says he doesn't touch in PP at all. Can this be true?

Should I be setting the camera preferences for contrastier capture results, with + exposure compensation, or will that risk loss of important hghlight and shadow data? Is the capture of the muddier image and fixing it in post processing really the preferred approach?

Thanks for any help you can offer.

Robert

Edited by rpenmanparker - 01 December 2012 at 14:57
Robert
 



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edrice View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote edrice Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 December 2012 at 15:12
There can be a lot of variables here. Ask your friend if he shoots all over the west using a polarizer. I do this using Sony cameras and get nice contrasty, saturated shots.

That said, very rare is the photo right out of the camera that I don't improve somewhat in PP with Photoshop whether from Sony, Canon, Panasonic or Nikon. I also have a tendancy, depending on the camera, to increase the contrast and saturation just a tad for jpgs, but also shoot raw so that I have the original data to work with. I'm like you and tend to like slightly increased contrast and color for landscapes. It's a subjective thing. Also watch your histogram and make EV adjustments if necessary. Your Canon friend may not have mentioned this. Just set your Sony to make shots like the Canon if that's what you like. There are no jpg police who are going to run you in for your settings

Ed
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Post Options Post Options   Quote edrice Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 December 2012 at 15:24
BTW, I spent many dark days processing B&W myself and do leans towards more contrast also. One of my favorite finishing techniques in Photoshop is the linear contrast setting in the curves presets. Rarely does it fail to deliver just the right amount of punch to any image, landscape or not. It makes colors sing without adding saturation.

Ed



Edited by edrice - 01 December 2012 at 15:29
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sybersitizen View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote sybersitizen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 December 2012 at 16:41
Originally posted by rpenmanparker rpenmanparker wrote:

I am shooting an a55 and before that a KM 5D. To simplify the discussion let's just assume I am shooting in PROGRAM mode ith multi-segment exposure measurement.

Same here, except I prefer center-weighted. And yes, I shoot in P mode a lot, depending on what I'm doing.

Been shooting JPEG, started shooting RAW about six months ago... Essentially all of my shots from either camera, whether natural light or flash, require levelling (setting wider black and white points), brightening, and up-contrasting in post editing. Am I doing something wrong with the camera, or is this normal.

So, which approach are you asking about? If you shoot JPEG, there are very important camera adjustments you can apply before shooting (including contrast and saturation), and many other adjustments you might also want to apply in post. If you shoot RAW, there are fewer important adjustments to apply before shooting, and several necessary adjustments to apply in post. With RAW, another factor is the choice of conversion software. Do not assume that the various programs will produce identical results.

How do folks just take a memory card to Wal Mart and get satisfactory, though not perfect, prints? Are the machines there doing the brightening, up-contrasting automatically to satisfy the mass market?

They can indeed, probably by default, and probably most casual shooters are getting that 'help' without knowing it. More advanced shooters can specify that the 'help' be eliminated, at least at Costco.

And I have a friend who shoots a Canon Rebel something or the other all over the western part of the US, capturing magnificent landscape and rock formation images, contrasty, bright, saturated, etc. which he says he doesn't touch in PP at all. Can this be true?

Yeah. Assuming he shoots JPEG, ask him what his camera settings are.

Should I be setting the camera preferences for contrastier capture results, with + exposure compensation, or will that risk loss of important hghlight and shadow data?

It's up to you. With RAW, this is of no importance unless you use Sony's RAW converter, which will conform itself to your choices. But you can always override it and handle the processing any way you like.

Is the capture of the muddier image and fixing it in post processing really the preferred approach?

With RAW, the default image that pops up is very likely to look bland until you specify your own preferred parameters - again, unless you use Sony's software.

Edited by sybersitizen - 01 December 2012 at 16:44
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Hotdog Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 December 2012 at 16:46
I shoot an A55 and yes, RAW needs some gentle processing - which is normal with any cameras RAW files.

JPEGS are pretty good SOC and need very little work.

It might be worth going through the menus and checking your settings in case something is causing this problem.
Sony SLTA57 and NEXF3
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rpenmanparker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 December 2012 at 17:51
Thanks for the advice so far. I am feeling a lot better about my situation. When I bought the a55 and was shooting only JPEGs, I noticed it was better than the KM 5D in contrast and fidelity to the actual scene brightness, etc. I thought that was great. I didn't realize that switching to RAW might be the reason I was regressing to images that look more like what I used to get in JPEG from the KM 5D. Knowing that all is as it should be makes me quite satisfied with the state of affairs. No question with the compressed range I am getting better highlight and shadow detail that I can work with as I please. I think I am probably on the right track.

Also I am sure this will all seem more natural when I start batch processing images in the RAW converter with a set of predetermined preferences. This will make the whole process more automatic, almost like the images came out of the camera that way, as in the JPEG situation, except the product will be to my specifications, not the cameras.

Thanks again.
Robert
 



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Post Options Post Options   Quote Bob Maddison Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 December 2012 at 18:43
Why not set up contrast, brightness and colour saturation in your camera to give you nearer the results you want?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote romke Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 December 2012 at 19:07
you should realize that camera generated JPG's always have been "cooked". they are compressed, have been sharpened and also the contrast and brightness may have been adjusted - in a way that cannot be exactly known. on top of that you can also make some choices when shooting JPG's: vivid colors, neutral, B&W etc. thus, every JPG image is cooked - and some ingredients of the cooking process can be user invoked.

RAW images however are quite different. it bears no resemblance to a actual image - it is no more then a table that records the luminance on a per pixel basis and also records which pixel has which colorfilter in front of it. in essence a RAW file is a luminosity map. the contents of that map combined with the knowledge which filter is where, makes it possible to "construct" a image. that is exactly what is done when the camera records the JPG's - and that construction process does make some changes to brightness, sharpness and contrast.

when shooting RAW just the RAW data is recorded and to obtain a visible image from that the file needs to be processed by a RAW converter - at which moment user chosen manipulations can be added - WB, brightness, exposure, contrast etc.

those will be needed - at least a contrast and sharpness manipulation is necessary. without the image would look "flat" and rather "mushy".

you thus have to choose during the process what to do and how to do it. that is a lot more work then shooting JPG, but the advantage is that you have full control and have access to all the data recorded - without the loss that comes with the JPG format.

there is thus nothing wrong with the 2 camera's - your experience reflects what actually happened and was to be expected.

shooting in RAW can be likened to shooting B&W film and doing the development yourself and thus getting more control over the quality of the negative. shooting JPG is more like handing over the processed film to a shop or laboratory and hope for the best. sometimes that turns out quite good, but in many cases you could have done a lot better yourself...
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Post Options Post Options   Quote sybersitizen Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 December 2012 at 19:23
Originally posted by romke romke wrote:

... shooting JPG is more like handing over the processed film to a shop or laboratory and hope for the best...

IMO, shooting JPG is like shooting slides (which is what I did in the past) and trusting the lab to do their job correctly - except that you still get to make adjustments afterwards.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rpenmanparker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 December 2012 at 20:59
Originally posted by Bob Maddison Bob Maddison wrote:

Why not set up contrast, brightness and colour saturation in your camera to give you nearer the results you want?


Yep, that was one of my questions, so I appreciate your suggestion. It would certainly be a valid approach.

On the other hand I have a much better realization about what is going on with RAW since reading some of the other advice, so that I am happy to work with the standard exposure settings and "mushy" RAW image. I was not really trying to learn how to deal with it as much as to find out if something was wrong with either my technique or the cameras. If working up the RAW image in the way that I have been needing to do is normal, I am happy to keep on doing it, albeit perhaps with some batch approach and preset preferences, both allowed in my AfterShot Pro.

Once again thanks to all my "advisors". Big help!
Robert
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Bob Maddison Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 December 2012 at 23:12
If you are having to make the same or very similar corrections for every shot, then you can do a "pre shot batch process" in camera. You might still want to make some PP corrections, but the closer you get to 'perfection' the less work you will have to do later.

As you might guess, I am of the "get it right first time" school, and regard PP as an admission of failure.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote igogosh Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 December 2012 at 23:34
Short answer - your camera will underexpose most of the time if left in program mode. It tries to expose for 20% grey. So your white subject will appear grey while in your mind it is still white. The camera needs exposure adjustment by the user to correct for that.
When you shoot predominantly white scenes your histogram should have a peak towards right past the middle, black - peak all the way to the left. A good balance of both will have your histogram peak from one side to the other depending on the range of dark and bright shades.
Watch your histogram.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote edrice Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 December 2012 at 23:35
Originally posted by Bob Maddison Bob Maddison wrote:

As you might guess, I am of the "get it right first time" school, and regard PP as an admission of failure.

That may be just a tad dogmatic for some of us. As a carryover from the wet process days, some of us consider pressing the shutter release button as only the first step in an artform. Getting the exposure you need is just not that difficult anymore and, in fact, downright easy with today's technology. It's made me almost lazy compared to how I used to shoot but I still look forward to the creativity of making good photos even better after downloading them, results that would never come out of any camera voluntarily.

Ed


Edited by edrice - 01 December 2012 at 23:54
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rpenmanparker Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02 December 2012 at 00:48
Originally posted by Bob Maddison Bob Maddison wrote:

If you are having to make the same or very similar corrections for every shot, then you can do a "pre shot batch process" in camera. You might still want to make some PP corrections, but the closer you get to 'perfection' the less work you will have to do later.

As you might guess, I am of the "get it right first time" school, and regard PP as an admission of failure.


Yeah Bob, I understand. But upon realizing that the RAW image on the monitor is not supposed to be a finished product without adjustment (such as the JPEG engine would make in the camera), I am very comfortable with my product. I like that I am not pushing my highlights to the edge or beyond. I am getting a very centralized exposure which the converter is opening up to fill the full black to white brightness range. I just applied a saved protocol to a batch of images and voila, it is just the same as if they came out of the camera that way. Except I still have all the range in the original RAW file. My concern was just a problem of understanding about RAW.
Robert
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